Project: Plant exploitation and domestication east of the Wallace Line:movement, manipulation and management of plant biodiversity
CI(s)/Institution: Tim Denham, Monash University, School of Geography & Environmental Science (Funded in 2005, total funding $87,450)
To foster cross-disciplinary exchange and to develop long-term research agendas regarding the effects of traditional plant exploitation practices on plant morphogenetics and biodiversity in Australia and New Guinea.
Plant exploitation practices east of the Wallace line are often represented by a dichotomy: agriculture/horticulture in New Guinea and hunting and gathering in Australia; whereas a range of practices of varying intensity were actually employed in both regions. These practices will have differentially exerted selective pressure on plants, which will have produced differential morphogenetic transformations in plants and plant parts. At present, the effects of these practices on plants - and resultant biodiversity - over the long term are poorly understood. Indeed, researchers working on these types of question require greater cross-disciplinary input to come to grips with what we already know before we can begin to formulate over-arching research strategies.
Given the range of plant exploitation practices across New Guinea and Australia from the distant past to the present, the region is ideally suited to investigate the effects of different practices on plant phenotypes and genotypes. What does this range of practices mean for our understanding of the concept 'domestication', which in turn is often used as a basis for interpreting 'agriculture'? If selective pressures (although variable) are exerted on different plants and plant parts under most types of plant exploitation, where do we draw the line to delineate 'domestication'? We still do not understand the variable selective pressures exerted on different plants and plant parts under one set of practices, i.e., consider the different types of plants in a New Guinea garden and their degrees of 'domestication', let alone between different types of plant exploitation
This project draws together a range of disciplines (agronomists, archaeologists, ecologists, ethnobotanists, geneticists and palaeoecologists) to compare the effects of plant exploitation practices on the genotypes and phenotypes of specific plants used over the long term across New Guinea and Australia. Groups of plants for comparison can be identified based on major groupings such as:
Workshops will be conducted based on three sub-themes:
In line with the original proposal, the first workshop (Canberra Museum,
August 2006) focused on understanding plant exploitation practices across
New Guinea and Australia. The workshop was highly successful; most significant
researchers in the field were present, knowledge 'gaps' were identified
and new research frameworks and synergies were outlined.
Participants at the workshop (#ECRs):